Going Home Again: 96 Hours in Fort Lauderdale, Florida (Day 3)
I awake just after dawn on Tuesday. Day 3. I’m up early for one reason: to drive 100 miles west into the heart of the swampy void of the Florida Everglades for an amazing eco-tour. The forecast is 75 degrees and plentiful sunshine. Big Bird’s gonna love this.
The locals have assured me that Billie Swamp Safari is the most authentic of Florida’s swamp tours, due in large part to its remote location on the Big Cyprus Indian reservation. I soon find out that it’s every bit worth the drive.
No sooner do I turn onto the access road and wonder aloud, “Gee it’d be great to see an alli- ”¦” Before the words can leave me mouth, I spy literally dozens of alligators sunbathing on the canal shores that straddle either side of the highway. It’s an amazing sight, one that I haven’t witnessed in almost twenty years. I’m positively giddy.
Rough Cut Video Enroute to Billie Swamp Safari
Promptly at 11a (tours depart every hour on the hour between 11a-5p), our tour group is organized aboard one of Billie’s several massive swamp buggies. It feels a little like riding the elementary school bus ”¦ if you happen to attend grade school in the middle of a swamp. This four wheel drive beast could crush my rental car like a soda can without breaking a sweat.
Our guide speaks with the smooth efficiency and humor of someone who’s lead this tour many times before. She’s knowledgeable, personable and delivers the tour narration with a whip smart humor.
Wild animals surround all sides of the buggy – wild boar, ostrich, deer, bison, horses. They have it all. What’s more is these are truly wild animals. Though the park is technically enclosed, the animals are free to come and go as they please through various entrance points.
Billie’s offers an array of additional eco-activities, including all-day and even overnight tours. Alas, I haven’t the time to enjoy an airboat ride as I’d hoped. There are few things more quintessentially unique to Florida than skimming the waters of the Everglades in a tiny aluminum boat with a massive, industrial fan bolted to the back. Having done it many times as a boy, I can confidently say that it’s a can’t-miss attraction if you’re down this way.
Billie’s doesn’t provide an FAQ page per se, so here are a few key points about the tour:
Google Maps provides directions to Billie’s from Fort Lauderdale in an estimated time of almost 2.5 hours. This is very conservative. It took me a little more than an 1:20.
Make a day of it. I took the express tour there and back – stopping only once for road food. But there’s plenty to see at Billie’s, including the aforementioned buggy tour and airboat ride. Additionally, there is a small eco park and a variety of other onsite attractions.
Our tour group consisted of people of all ages – from kindergarten-aged children to senior citizens. They all thoroughly enjoyed the tour. It’s definitely kid-friendly.
On several occasions, the buggy travels through several feet of water, but no one on our tour came close to getting wet. Just so you know.
Working on My Tan
With only two real seasons back home – summer and “Holy sweet Jesus on the cross, it’s cold!” – we New Englanders spend a fair amount of time indoors. As evidenced by the above video, this can leave some of us ([ahem]me[ahem]) with somewhat fair complexions.
And since “working on your tan” is such a south Florida thing to do, I decided to cap off the afternoon with some poolside lounging back at il Lugano. It’s a fantastic way to melt off vacation stress and get a little blogging done to boot.
Waxy Irish Pub
I’m a young chap with a penchant for great beer. Naturally I’ll seek out a good Irish pub everywhere I go. To my delight, Fort Lauderdale offers several great options for those in search of a Guinness or the like.
Waxy Irish Pub (1095 SE 17th St, Fort Lauderdale / (954) 525-WAXY) is everything you’d expect a great Irish pub to be: plenty of dark wood, lively conversation and bartenders who all too charmingly coax you into two or three more Guinness than you’d originally planned on. I spend the better part of the evening chatting up the locals.
When the conversation dips too deeply into politics, sports or religion, we all say “Fook it!” and order another round.